Understanding Addiction with Reflections Recovery Center

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Meth Overdose

In late 2019, methamphetamine became the largest contributor of overdose deaths in the United States, slowly passing fentanyl as the center of America’s drug epidemic. In 2017 alone, an estimated 1.6 million people in the United States had reported using meth in the past year and a further 964,000 people had a methamphetamine use disorder. The risk of meth overdose, which can have lasting health effects or even potentially result in death, is serious. Any meth use should be taken seriously as soon as possible.

meth overdose

What is meth?

Methamphetamine is a white crystal-like substance which can be snorted, smoked or injected into the users bloodstream. When taken, the user will experience a powerful euphoric high which can also bring about feelings of confidence, pleasure and make the user feel energized. It’s euphoric properties is one of its more enticing effects which many users begin to crave. Some describe it to be emotionally numbing, therefore allowing them to escape painful emotions and past experiences.

meth overdose

However, meth is also incredibly dangerous due to its high potential for abuse and apparent risk of overdosing. The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies meth as a Schedule II drug which “are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Meth users will find that their bodies begin to develop a tolerance to the drug as soon as after their first use. For most, the first use is the most powerful and impactful experience. Subsequent uses of the drug at the same dose begins to feel weaker and weaker over time. Therefore, meth users will continuously increase their dosage in attempts to recreate their first high. However, this often leads to overdoses, as at a certain point your body can no longer handle the high doses.

What causes a meth overdose?

An overdose is the body’s negative reaction to a drug or outside substance. In most cases, this is caused by taking too much of a drug, either on accident or purposefully. Not all overdoses will be fatal, however, all overdoses can become fatal. According to the University of Arizona’s Methamphetamine and other illicit drug education (MethOIDE) journal, the most common cause of death during a meth overdose is multiple organ failure similar to heat stroke. In rare cases, death can also occur from metal poisoning or contamination from illicitly produced, impure meth. Some signs of a meth overdose include:

  • Chest pain
  • Arrhythmias
  • Hypertension or Hypotension
  • Difficult or labored breathing (Dyspnea)
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Rapid or slow heartbeat (tachycardia or bradycardia)
  • Hyperthermia
  • Sweating

While these symptoms are not unique to meth overdoses, sweating profusely is. It is possible to recover from a meth overdose, however, the likelihood of surviving is highly dependent on how soon the individual receives medical attention. If you, someone you know or a stranger is exhibiting the above symptoms, call emergency services immediately. However, even with the proper medical attention, an overdose can cause lifelong health problems.

How long does meth stay in your system?

Meth is mostly unaffected by your body’s metabolism, unlike cocaine. Therefore, its effects can last from 8 to even 24 hours in extreme cases. This does depend on other factors such as how the drug was taken (orally, injected, snorted etc), the overall health of the individual and dosage. Meth has a half-life of around 10-12 hours, which means it takes approximately 10 hours for the initially ingested drug dose to reduce to half its size (i.e. if you took 100mg, 10 hours later, that would effectively be 50mg in your body). However, its detection rates vary depending on the type of test administered and amphetamine, a metabolite of meth may be detectable even longer past the ingestion period.

meth overdose

Meth Withdrawal

Meth withdrawals begin immediately after someone stops using meth and is highly uncomfortable and with the potential to last weeks. The duration and intensity of the withdrawal period does depend on how long the individual has been using the drug. Generally, those with a longer history of meth abuse will experience more intense withdrawals. Avoiding withdrawals is one of the primary reasons individuals will continue to use meth.

There are two distinct phases of meth withdrawal. The first phase occurs during the first 24 hours after last taking the drug and will include symptoms such as fatigue, increased appetite, anxiety and depression. The second phase will usually last 2 to 3 weeks and usually cause intense cravings for the drug and severe depression. In extreme cases, individuals who have an extensive history of abusing the drug may experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) which can essentially extend the withdrawal symptoms up to 6 months or more.

Treatment

Meth is a highly addictive drug. Even just one use can create an immediate desire for more and spiral out of control. It is one of the most dangerous drugs Americans have ever been faced with. However, recovery is absolutely possible. Given the complex nature of the recovery process and withdrawal symptoms, we recommend that you have a plan in place and work with a professional who can guide you during your path to recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with meth abuse, please contact us today so that we can begin your road to lifetime recovery, together.

Dissociative Drugs


Dissociative drugs are a classification of hallucinogenic drugs which distort a user’s perceptions of sight and sound. The effect of these drugs causes the user to feel detached or a ‘dissociation’ from their mind and body. While for some, this experience can sound like an exciting way to view their world in a different lens, it does not come without its risks.

dissociative drugs

How do dissociative drugs work? 

Some dissociative drugs started off as general anesthetics such as PCP (phencyclidine) and Ketamine to be used during surgery but are now commonly used as party drugs. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), these drugs “ cause their effects by disrupting the actions of the brain chemical glutamate at certain types of receptors—called N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors—on nerve cells throughout the brain.” Glutamate is a critical chemical which is responsible for cognition (such as learning and memory), emotion, and perceptions of pain (which explains its use as a surgical anesthetic).

What are the effects of dissociative drugs

Dissociative drugs can have varying effects on people and everyone’s experience seems to be different. However, generally, users can expect to experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired motor function
  • Body tremors
  • Numbness 

In addition, individuals who take lower doses may experience:

  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Changes in sensory perceptions (sight, sound, shapes)
  • Hallucinations
  • Feelings of detachment 
  • Increase in blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and body temperature

Those who take high doses of dissociative drugs may further experience:

  • Hallucinations
  • Physical distress
  • Extreme paranoia, panic, fear, anxiety, aggression
  • Overdose when mixed with other depressants such as alcohol

dissociative drugs

Dissociative drugs FAQ

What will I feel when taking a dissociative drug?

It is extremely difficult to accurately determine how individuals will react to dissociatives because everyone’s experience is different. While most people will feel a general sense of detachment, some will experience a more intense hallucinogenic effect whereas others may only feel a euphoric high.

What are the long-term effects of dissociative drugs?

Some long term effects of dissociative drugs such as PCP can be speech difficulties, memory loss, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety and social withdrawal. 

What is a ‘k hole’?

A k-hole is the name given to the dissociative and hallucinogenic effects felt when taking high doses of Ketamine. People have described a k-hole as being an immensely powerful out of body experience and as if they felt physically separated from their body. This feeling can be desirable for some but carries a lot of the negative effects as discussed above.

Are dissociative drugs illegal?

The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has a classification system it uses to ‘schedule’ certain drugs into tiers. If a substance falls under one of the DEA categories, it is a controlled substance. Most dissociative and hallucinogenic drugs are classified under this system. For example, DMT is a schedule I drug which means it has no accepted medical uses and a high risk for abuse. Its categorization makes DMT illegal. Likewise PCP falls under the schedule 2 drug category.

What is Mescaline?

Mescaline is a naturally occuring hallucinogenic drug which is known to have similar effects to that of LSD and psilocybin. It is  the main psychoactive ingredient found in the peyote cactus which is another popular hallucinogenic drug.

What is the difference between dissociative and hallucinogenic drugs?

Essentially, hallucinogens are also known as psychedelics and only cause visual, auditory and sensory hallucinations. Popular hallucinogenic drugs include LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and peyote. Dissociative drugs will cause a sense of detachment from your body along with hallucinations. PCP, Ketamine, and DXM are the most popular dissociative drugs.

dissociative drugs

What is HPPD?

Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) is essentially a never ending ‘trip.’ Medical science still has not come to a conclusion about why this occurs and what the mechanics of this is. However, some people report using a hallucinogenic drug once and never fully recovering from its effects.

Getting treatment

Dealing with dissociative drug addiction can be a major issue. This category of drugs provides an easy escape from reality and some people may begin to rely on it just to get through their day. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact us today.

Kratom and Alcohol

Kratom is a plant native to Southeast Asia. It is typically used for recreational purposes and has slowly made its way into the US market. Its leaves contain chemicals which produce a psychotropic (mind-altering) effect when ingested. While there is a lack of any known medical properties, there is currently no federal widespread ban on the drug. In fact, it is pretty easy to buy online in various forms. While it is not illegal in most states, that does not mean it can not be deadly or harmful. As many people consume alcohol, they will possibly mix Kratom and alcohol without realizing the potential risks.

Kratom 101

Kratom is the name given to the Mitragyna speciosa species of trees. It goes by several other names such as Biak, Ketum, Kakuam or Thom. In its native regions, Kratom is used as a painkiller and stomach medicine but has no legitimate medical use. It is typically found online in its powdered or capsule form, but the leaves can be eaten raw or crushed. 


The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies drugs in the US under several schedules. A schedule 1 drug for example is considered to have a very high risk for abuse and has no accepted medical purposes. Drugs such as marijuana and heroin are considered schedule 1 drugs. The DEA however has not scheduled Kratom under any of its classifications. Still, the DEA has listed Kratom as a ‘Drug of Concern.’ There is a push to make the drug illegal in the U.S. and in fact, 7 states have so far made it illegal to possess or use.


In 2016, the DEA announced that it was going to place Kratom under a schedule 1 classification. However, later in the year, the agency withdrew their notice of intent and began “soliciting comments from the public regarding the scheduling of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine under the Controlled Substances Act”. There have been no significant updates since then.

kratom and alcohol

Kratom Side Effects

Kratom effects on the body can be unpredictable. In low doses, the drug acts as a stimulant, causing users to feel an increase in energy and alertness, but can also have sedative-like effects when taken in high enough doses. The two main compounds in the leaves, mitragynine and 7-a-hydroxymitragynine, bind to the opioid receptors in the brain which can cause sedation, a euphoric high and pain killing effects. 

Kratom presents similar properties as some opioids. One of the cases for making Kratom a controlled substance rather than outright banning it is because some believe it can be used to treat opioid addiction. While there still needs to be more clinical trials to prove this, there is a push to keep it legal in the U.S.

Significant research is still necessary on Kratom, and it is difficult to say with certainty what effects Kratom will have on users. In general, users can expect to experience:

  • Disrupted sleep
  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Drowsiness
  • Cough suppression
  • Pain reduction
  • Psychosis
  • Weight loss

While not all of these effects are necessarily negative, some negative short-term effects include:

  • Tremors
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation 
kratom side effects

Mixing Kratom and Alcohol

It is difficult to predict what the effects of mixing kratom and alcohol might be. Generally, mixing alcohol with anything is inherently dangerous. Mixing two or more drugs (also known as polysubstance abuse) will generally cause the effects of the one drug to enhance the effects of each other, in particular the negative effects. Kratom can present sedative or stimulant properties while alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.

Given that Kratom can enhance the effects of alcohol, mixing the two drugs can cause the depressive effects of alcohol to be enhanced and as a result lead to alcohol poisoning or death. According to the National Poison Data System, between 2011-2017 there were 11 deaths associated with Kratom use. Nine of those deaths involved other drugs such as alcohol, fentanyl, cocaine, benzodiazepines and even caffeine.

Additionally, substance use often lowers inhibitions and causes impaired judgement. The more substances are added, the more at risk someone might be for potentially serious consequences.

kratom and alcohol

Is Kratom Addictive?

There are two different types of addiction: chemical and psychological dependence. Given the similar effects to opioid drugs, it is very possible for an individual to become addicted to Kratom. It is still yet to be seen how severe Kratom addictions can be, as there lacks any clinical trials or an abundance of data to draw a conclusion from. Some users have reported becoming addicted to Kratom and have even experience Kratom withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Muscle aches
  • Irritability
  • Hostility
  • Aggression
  • Emotional changes
  • Involuntary movements
  • Runny nose
  • Insomnia

You can also develop a tolerance to Kratom, where you will need to take more of the drug to feel the same effects.

How long does kratom stay in your system?

There are currently no specific drug tests to detect the presence of Kratom in the body, most likely due to the obscurity of the drug. However, like most other substances, the duration of the chemical traces in your body will depend on the following factors:

  • Frequency of use
  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Body fat
  • Metabolic rate

There is no known half-life for Kratom but one the primary alkaloids found in Kratom, mitragynine, has a half-life of around 24 hours. Essentially, it would take a person a full day to remove 50% of the alkaloid and the alkaloid can be detected in some drug tests. 

kratom and alcohol

Treatment

With the lack of research on Kratom, it may be easy to believe that the drug cannot be dangerous. Its lack of popularity is not due to medical acceptance as the drug can still be very dangerous when misused. Alcohol is legal and widely used, but also presents serious risk of misuse, abuse and addiction. More research is necessary on Kratom and alcohol, but it is better not to mix at all. Staying informed on the dangers can help keep you safe against abuse, addiction, or overdosing. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, please do not hesitate to contact us

Tramadol and Alcohol

Tramadol and Alcohol

Tramadol is an opiate analgesic (or narcotic). To this end, its purpose is to treat moderate to severe pain. As an opiate, there’s a significant risk of addiction and this increases with long-term use.* For the most part, it’s meant to help people that need 24/7 help for their pain. The need for continuous pain management contributes to the potential for long-term use – something medical professionals should monitor. Tramadol, like any opiate, should only be used under medical supervision. Likewise, it should not be stopped without medical supervision. Of course, someone taking tramadol might not always disclose use of other substances. In spite of the danger of mixing substances, a somewhat common combination is tramadol and alcohol. 


The mixture of tramadol and alcohol might not result in overdose every single time, but there is always the risk. Indeed, excessive alcohol intake significantly increases the risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Further, they state there is no safe use of alcohol and opioids. Additionally, most people likely do not realize how few drinks it takes to reach excessive or binge-drinking levels. Increased consumption of alcohol heightens the effects of alcohol increasing the risk when combined with tramadol. To this end, excessive alcohol use can depress the central nervous system, impairing breathing. Likewise, a side effect of opioids is also suppressed respiratory function. As stated by the CDC, there is really no safe combination of tramadol and alcohol, and the risk increases the more either substance is used.

How long does tramadol stay in your system?

Tramadol comes in different forms (tablets, capsules, drops, injections, etc.) as well as slow-acting and fast-acting forms. According to the National Health Service (NHS-UK), fast-acting will work within 30 to 60 minutes. This is better for pain that is expected to only last for a short term. Slow-acting will be released into the body over 12 to 24 hours and will take longer to work, but will last longer. Thus, this is better for long-term pain management. What is more, it’s important to take Tramadol only under medical supervision. 


Depending on the dose and length of time, someone might have different reactions with tramadol and other substances. Above all, it’s important to communicate consumption of any other substances with medical professionals. According to the Mayo Clinic, tramadol and Tylenol (acetaminophen), is a safe combination. However, it is still best for anyone taking tramadol to communicate with their doctor if they are taking any other type of medication.

Tramadol Side Effects

Some common side effects of tramadol can include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue, low energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Sweating

These symptoms are common and not immediate cause for concern. However, anyone should always communicate with their doctor any concerns. 

Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms

Under proper medical supervision, tramadol should not cause serious issues or withdrawal. However, it is possible for someone to mistakenly take an extra dosage, miss one or more doses, mix with other substances that cause issues, or even of course be using tramadol illegally. Ultimately, any of these possibilities, and many others, can cause someone to experience tramadol withdrawal symptoms. Equally important, sudden disuse of tramadol is more likely to cause withdrawal, so when possible it’s best to taper off with the help of a medical professional.

Tramadol withdrawal symptoms may set in 12-20 hours after the last dose. Symptoms can include:*

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Tinnitus

Psychiatric withdrawal symptoms might include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Confusion

With this in mind, it’s important for anyone experiencing tramadol withdrawal symptoms to seek medical help right away. Moreover, it’s important to call 911 if anyone’s in immediate danger or in fear of overdose.

Tramadol Overdose

Under proper medical supervision overdose is not common. However, even someone using under supervision may accidentally take too much tramadol. As a result of tramadol misuse, from 2005 to 2011, emergency-room visits from tramadol misuse tripled to 21,469. In regards to what tramadol overdose looks like, the a Wall Street Journal article states, “Excess tramadol intake tends to cause seizures and a fast collapse.” 

According to a U.S. National Library of Medicine resource, other symptoms of overdose include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Unconsciousness 
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Muscle weakness

Again, under proper medical supervision the chance of overdose should be extremely low. However, mistakes happen as well as abuse being a common reality. It’s important for anyone using tramadol to be aware of the signs, as well as those with loved one’s using tramadol. Should you or anyone experience these symptoms as a result of tramadol use, it is important to call 911 as soon as possible.

Treatment

Most resources affirm that low-dosage, short-term use of tramadol under medical supervision shouldn’t result in addiction or serious health problems like withdrawal or overdose. Nonetheless, many people react differently and it’s always important to watch out for side effects and other problems. In many countries, this has led to a lack of oversight over the usage of tramadol. Moreover, in the United States, it was not controlled at a federal level until a few years ago. This allowed (and continues to allow) widespread use and abuse around much of the world. While it’s not as strong as morphine, it’s still an opioid and has the potential for abuse and addiction. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with tramadol abuse or addiction, we can help at Reflections Recovery Center. We can provide help and resources for intervention, if needed. Initially, each client goes through an assessment, which will help us determine if detox is necessary. We offer a 5-day detox program. Throughout treatment, we will help our clients improve their physical and mental health as well as providing the skills to maintain sobriety long after treatment. In addition to this, each client goes through an assessment so that we can determine what exactly they need. No person is the same, nor is their experience with addiction the same. Therefore, we form a treatment plan around each person’s unique needs. If you or a loved one needs help, please reach out today.

*Resources:
Tramadol: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (2019, June 17). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a695011.html

Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for People Who Consume Alcohol and Use Opioids. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/prescribing/AlcoholToolFactSheet-508.pdf

Tramadol. (2018, November 26). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/tramadol/

Tramadol And Acetaminophen (Oral Route) Description and Brand Names. (2019, May 01). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/tramadol-and-acetaminophen-oral-route/description/drg-20062870

Epstein, D. H., Preston, K. L., & Jasinski, D. R. (2010, September 22). Abuse liability, behavioral pharmacology, and physical-dependence potential of opioids in humans and laboratory animals: Lessons from tramadol. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2943845/


Epstein, D. H., Preston, K. L., & Jasinski, D. R. (2010, September 22). Abuse liability, behavioral pharmacology, and physical-dependence potential of opioids in humans and laboratory animals: Lessons from tramadol. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2943845/

Scheck, J. (2016, October 20). Tramadol: The Opioid Crisis for the Rest of the World. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/tramadol-the-opioid-crisis-for-the-rest-of-the-world-1476887401

Schedules of Controlled Substances: Placement of Tramadol Into Schedule IV. (2014, July 02). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2014/07/02/2014-15548/schedules-of-controlled-substances-placement-of-tramadol-into-schedule-iv

Movies about Addiction

Substance Abuse in Media

Movies have significant cultural impact and movies about addiction are important. Substances have been portrayed in a variety of ways, ranging from casual use, to abuse and addiction. Many films, including The Hangover, are centered around wild nights fueled by alcohol. In The Wolf of Wall Street, many of the characters engage in binge-drinking and abuse of various illicit substances. While both films do touch on consequences in some ways, the movies present the substance abuse in a comedic manner. As heroin is highly-addictive and considered a “hard” drug, it is not usually thought of or portrayed in a light manner that abuse of other substances might be. There are, of course, some movies like Trainspotting which is considered a “black comedy”. This type of movie usually takes a comedic look at topics that are taboo, like heroin addiction.

In a study done on illicit substances in media, researchers found, “Media can influence audiences in four key ways…” which includes, “…indirectly shaping individual and community attitudes toward risk…”* With heavy-drinking often portrayed as comedic, it’s understandable that many do not recognize it as a problem in real life.  With heroin, this is less likely, but how it is portrayed in a movie can still have a significant impact on viewers. Movies about addiction affect our views whether we consciously or unconsciously recognize it.

Trainspotting (1996)

Trainspotting follows a variety of characters, with Mark Renton being the main character we see. Mark, and many of his friends, are lower-class in Scotland. For them, heroin addiction is a way of coping with their problems and they often express that it makes them feel better about their place in life. At one point in the film, Mark expresses the sentiment that their lives have little meaning outside of addiction. Various events, including arrests and a death, cause the group to reconsider this at certain points. A couple of times, Mark maintains maintain sobriety for a short time, determined to stay sober. However, something, whether a traumatic event or simply craving heroin, draws him back in. As most of his friends are struggling with addiction, it is difficult for Mark to maintain sobriety for a long amount of time.

True to real life, addiction is often a way that people cope with their lives. For some it is a past trauma. For others, it is something like their social and economic class, which can be traumatic in its own way. While Trainspotting is a black comedy and finds some humor in it, the movie does accurately depict how difficult it can be to break the cycle of addiction. When the majority of your social group engages in the same behaviors, this can make sobriety more difficult to achieve.

Wild (2014)

Wild is based on a memoir written by author Cheryl Strayed. The movie primarily follows her journey to walk 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. She embarks on this journey in hopes of continuing her recovery from addiction and other issues in her past. While hiking, the movie presents flashbacks that take the viewer through her life to help understand her actions. As a child, Cheryl grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father before her mother finally divorced him. Her mother was her closest friend and when she died at 45 years old from cancer, this caused Cheryl to spiral into a deep depression.

Following her mother’s death, Cheryl turns to heroin and anonymous sex in an attempt to cope with the pain. In the process, she strains relationships with her husband (they eventually divorce), family, and friends. Her addiction and depression also prevents her from finishing her education or developing a career. At one point, Cheryl denies her addiction and states that she is in control and is just experimenting. Heroin is not the sole focus of Wild, but it is a topic that is present for most of it. They do a good job of subtly showing how people might turn to addiction, their denial or reasoning, and how it destroys different areas of their life.

Many people dealing with addiction often have trauma in their lives, whether from before or after addiction. Cheryl had a traumatic upbringing with her father and then the death of her mother at a young age. The abuse of substances obviously varies, but it is incredibly common to numb pain through addiction.

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

An interesting fact about Requiem for a Dream is that the word heroin is never said by a character. There are various illicit substances used and the film does touch on different addictions. There is Harry Goldfarb, his mother Sara, his girlfriend Marion, and his friend Tyrone. At the start of the film, Harry and Tyrone are pawning Sara’s TV, which they do regularly after she buys it back, to fund their heroin addiction. Sara suffers from a food addiction and, after going to a doctor, begins to take amphetamines. Harry expresses concern for his mother and wants her to stop using drugs. Despite his concern, he is not capable of acknowledging his own addiction and how it is ruining his life.

Throughout the film, it’s clear that all four characters are delusional and using substance abuse to cope with something in their life. Sara is a reflection of many older people in real life; her husband is dead, her son suffering from addiction, which she enables, and she is incredibly lonely. Tyrone hopes to escape the ghetto. Quite often, people are trapped by economic circumstances and it is an unfortunate reality that they then turn to addiction as a means of coping. Harry and Marion are both struggling with mental health issues. They use heroin, and other substances, as a means to cope and feel something.

Sara’s husband died at some point and Harry is all she has. Because of this and her own addiction, she fails to recognize or try to help her son’s addiction. Harry, Marion, and Tyrone are all unable to see what their addiction is doing to their lives. Their relationships with one another rapidly deteriorate as they make compromises, face violence and arrest, and lose any sense of purpose to feed their addiction. As far as movies about addiction are concerned, Requiem shows how addiction can vary and how it impacts those around you.

Using Movies about Addiction to Better Understand Addiction

All of the movies about addiction mentioned above have had significant impact on our culture. While other substances are frequently talked about or shown in media, heroin has been and is still a taboo subject. They all accurately show the depths to which heroin addiction can take people. Each film also portrays the way addiction reaches the community around you, and how it affects your friends and family. Different people may be able to get varying messages from the film. For people watching their loved one go through addiction, it might help provide insight into the causes and the path that led them there. Anyone who has struggled with addiction, or still is currently, it can show that they are not alone in their experiences. Trainspotting, in particular, shows that relapse is a very normal part of addiction and does not mean anyone should give up in their efforts to maintain sobriety.

*Resources:
Illicit drugs and the media – NIH

Nutrition in Recovery

Nutrients found in food are essential to life. They provide calories and energy that is needed so we can go throughout our days. It is possible though to consume food without much nutrition and feel like you’re able to go about your day with no problems. The connection between food and health might not always be so clear to everyone. What may or may not seem obvious, is that food impacts our health and how we deal with daily life. With processed foods, it begins to lose most if not all of the nutrition it may have had. This type of food can leave someone feeling sick, lethargic, and can greatly affect one’s mood. Processed food puts the body into a state of inflammation, which leaves people feeling depressed and anxious.

Naturally, your body adjusts to what you regularly consume. For Psychology Today, Dr. Nicole Avena writes, “Without even realizing it, most food choices are made based on taste, convenience, and familiarity. The gut will not be primed for digestion of fibrous fruits and vegetables, and there exists a strong preference for food that is salty (chips) or sweet and easily digestible (sweetened cereal with milk).” If you eat only junk food, that is what you crave and what triggers the reward center in your brain. With nutrient therapy, we want to show that it is possible to feel better by eating better. Addiction significantly deprives the body of nutrients. For a thorough recovery, it is essential that we work with patients to repair their health through nutrition.

Alcohol and Nutrition

The vagus nerve is a nerve that helps your gut and your mind communicate. The food you consume directly affects this nerve, and naturally so does consumption of alcohol. When something is permeable, it becomes more absorbent or more easily allows substances to pass through. Some permeability in the gut or intestines, for example, is okay, but when it increases it can become a problem. A study done in 2014 found that alcohol-dependent subjects may have higher gut permeability, which can affect behavioral changes and mood.

The authors also wrote, “Alcohol-dependent subjects frequently develop emotional symptoms that contribute to the persistence of alcohol drinking.”* Someone might drink to cope with other issues and then develop issues from drinking, which will then lead to continued heavy drinking. This can clearly create a negative cycle; it will damage the gut and can lead to anxiety and depression, which then may be self-medicated with alcohol.

Furthermore, alcohol impedes a body’s ability to break down nutrients into molecules that the body desperately needs. Excessive consumption of alcohol can deprive the body of vitamins and minerals. A deficiency in Vitamin K, for example, can cause delayed blood clotting and will result in excess bleeding. Furthermore, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “…eighty percent of bipolar sufferers have some vitamin B deficiencies (often accompanied by anemia).”* A vitamin B deficiency is not the sole cause, nor will everyone with a deficiency suffer from bipolar disorder. However, it is an important facet to consider and increasing vitamin B levels can help to alleviate some symptoms.

Other vitamin deficiencies can cause severe neurological damage. Mineral deficiencies can result in a number of health problems including calcium-related bone disease, zinc-related night blindness and skin lesions.* For clients seeking treatment for alcohol addiction, we will identify any malnutrition or micro-nutrient deficiencies. When we know what to address, we can form a plan with food, nutrition and other necessary medicine to restore balance.

Drugs and Nutrient Deprivation

Drugs also clearly deprive the body of essential nutrients and can lead to severe malnutrition. Opiates (including codeine, oxycodone, heroin, and morphine) can cause gastrointestinal problems which can include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This can result in a lack of nutrients and electrolytes, like sodium or potassium.* With stimulants, like meth, crack, or cocaine, appetite is reduced and this leads to weight loss and poor nutrition. Long-term use can result in permanent memory problems.* There are, of course, many other possible issues. Substance abuse is a disease that can drastically destroy the mind and body. However, with proper help and treatment there is hope.

When someone is in recovery, particularly after abusing stimulants, it is possible they might turn to overeating. At Reflections, we want to work with clients on a plan to return their health to a good place and to learn new, healthy habits. This can start with eating at regular times, eating food that is high in nutrition, and even learning to prepare healthy food for oneself. Nutrition is essential to having energy, maintaining body structure, and bodily function.

A better mood and mental state is a good defense against relapse in many ways. It can encourage someone to engage in other healthy behaviors. As good food makes the body and mind feel better, physical activity will be something clients feel they can engage in. Being active can be a significant help in recovery. Overall, we want our clients to develop good nutritional habits that will reach every other area of their lives.

Utilizing Nutrition in Recovery

At Reflections, each client will go through an initial evaluation. This allows us to take a comprehensive look at our client’s health. With laboratory testing, we can identify the vitamins and minerals where there is a deficiency. This helps us identify how their health is affected, physically or mentally, and how we can proceed with treatment. We can begin to introduce food and other healthy methods of restoring balance in the body. Our goal is that each client will feel better physically, which can lead to improved mental health. We also want clients to know that they can take control of their health and what they eat, and thus play a big part in their sobriety.

If we can teach our clients proper nutrition, we can allow them to take control. Learning about nutrition regarding food, drinks, and supplements is something clients can take with them after treatment. When clients are feeling better physically and mentally, they may feel more capable of engaging in physical activity. An active life in turn further benefits their physical and mental health, creating a positive cycle. At Reflections, we all truly want each client to walk away with the skills to continue a positive life and to maintain sobriety.

*Resources:
Psychology Today – Nutrition in Recovery from Addiction
Intestinal Permeability – PNAS
Alcohol and Nutrition – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Substance Use Recovery and Diet – MedlinePlus

Does Parents’ Emotional Pain Get Adult Children Into a Drug Recovery Plan?


Parents generally do everything they can to spare their children pain, but what can a parent do when an adult child has developed a substance abuse disorder? For adult children, drug recovery can be an extremely difficult subject to broach and some parents may find it difficult to break enabling behaviors. However, it is essential for parents in these situations to address these issues honestly and set a firm foundation for their children’s recoveries.

Emotional Appeals Often Aren’t Enough

Parents may beg and plead with a child enduring substance abuse disorder to seek treatment, only to have their encouragement fall on deaf ears. It can be tremendously difficult for a parent to even acknowledge a child’s substance abuse, let along confront him or her about it. Some parents may struggle to find the words while others let emotions drive their thoughts and may wind up doing more harm than good. If encouragement fails they may resort to guilt-trips, but this will not work either. All guilt-tripping accomplishes is making the child feel worse about his or her situation.

Developing Realistic Goals

The parents of a grown child with a substance abuse disorder must work closely together to develop a drug recovery plan that they can support. Finding the right treatment program is just one step of this process; parents must also plan to have an intervention with their child and plan to address their own roles in the child’s behaviors.

Honest Self-Reflection: Parents’ Emotional Pain And Drug Addiction

Children will typically feel guilt at the sight of a parent’s emotional pleas to enter rehab, but these pleas may also fall on deaf ears if the child’s addiction has escalated to dangerous levels. Addiction can turn people into master manipulators; once addiction has firmly taken hold of an individual, he or she will start doing everything possible – consciously and unconsciously – to maintain the addiction.

Parents unfortunately often play roles in these cycles of addictive behaviors by enabling a child’s habit when they only want to help. Identifying and stopping enabling behaviors can be one of the most difficult aspects of a parent’s confrontation with a child’s substance abuse, but it is an essential part of recovery.

Stopping Patterns Of Enabling

Some parents will enable a child’s addiction without realizing it. Most enabling behaviors arise from good intentions; parents don’t like seeing their children suffer and will try to prevent that suffering if possible. Enabling can take many forms, including:

  • Cleaning up after a child, such as doing laundry or washing dishes the child neglected due to his or her habits.
  • Paying basic living expenses for an adult child because he or she spent too much money on drugs or alcohol.
  • Allowing an adult child to remain in the family home and continue using drugs because the parent believes it’s “safer” than him or her doing it on the street. This may be technically true, but it does nothing to curb the addiction.
  • Lying on behalf of a child or making excuses for him or her to cover up his or her addiction.

This is not a complete list. Enabling can occur in many situations and varies based on unique factors in a family, but it’s vital to recognize that any behaviors that allow an addiction to continue unchecked, even those made with the best intentions, are enabling behaviors that need to stop.

The Value Of Professional Interventions

Parent’s emotional pain usually isn’t enough to convince a child to enter addiction treatment. Substance abuse distorts perceptions and priorities and such emotional displays will only put the child on the defensive. Guilt won’t work either, so how can parents address addiction with a child in a constructive way?

Most recovery journeys begin with an intervention. During an intervention, the friends and family of a person with an addiction will come together to let their struggling loved one know how his or her habits have affected them and encourage him or her to enter rehab. This can be a difficult emotional experience for everyone involved, and professional assistance can be a tremendous asset to any family in this situation.

Instead of an unrehearsed, unguided intervention where tempers can flare and past grudges may resurface between family members, a professional intervention offers a more structured and constructive approach to convincing someone to enter rehab. A professional interventionist will work closely with the family and friends of the person with the addiction to develop a meaningful and positive intervention experience with the highest chances of success.

How Can Reflections Rehab Help My Child?

Reflections Rehab is a men’s-only addiction treatment center that focuses on outdoor activity and individualized care. We know there is no one-size-fits-all solution to addiction, and we take the time to get to know every patient on a comprehensive personal level to develop a treatment plan that works best for him.

Our professionally guided intervention services can help a family plan and execute a positive and constructive intervention that convinces a struggling child to enter rehab and pursue a sober lifestyle. We understand there are unique factors in any family that complicate addiction, which is why we take the time to get to know every patient and every family we assist on a personal level. Addressing substance abuse means uncovering the roots of an addiction, and these roots often reside among the family and friends of a person with a substance abuse disorder.

Emotional appeals are not enough. While it’s important for parents to be honest about their feelings with their children, they should not expect their emotional pleas alone to be enough to persuade their children to enter rehab. Confronting long-standing familial issues that have contributed to a child’s addiction can be extremely difficult, but this is a crucial part of the recovery process.

Reflections Rehab can help. We offer a full range of treatment services and therapies to young men struggling with all types of addiction. If your son is struggling with a substance abuse problem, learn more about our intervention program, how it could help you, and the other services offered at Reflections Rehab.

What Families Need to Know About Painkiller Withdrawal


Painkiller addiction (addiction to opioid-based prescription drugs) is a very real concern in the United States, and has been for over a decade – as the opioid epidemic grew and claimed more lives. Because abuse of prescription painkillers and painkiller addiction is deadly – yet can start off in a seemingly harmless way – it’s extremely important for parents and families to be educated on painkiller addiction, withdrawal and the need for painkiller addiction treatment

Painkiller Withdrawal is Dangerous and Can Be Deadly without Medical Detox

The number 1 most important thing that families need to know about painkiller withdrawal is that quitting suddenly can be dangerous, and the withdrawal symptoms from painkiller addiction can be deadly, if not treated with medically supervised opioid detox.
We cannot stress this enough, if you have a loved one that is addicted to painkillers and opioid-based prescription drugs. Do not let them quit cold turkey, get them into proper care with medically assisted painkiller detox.


Why Painkiller Addiction is So Dangerous

Prevent Prescription Opioid Abuse in Your Home

According to a study on “Association of Household Opioid Availability and Prescription Opioid Initiation Among Household Members,” dangerously addictive prescription painkillers prescribed to one person in the family can easily wind up in the hands of others in the house.

Not only are family members likely to take prescription opioids to get high if they are easily accessible in the home, but the study also shows that when a person in a family gets prescribed opioids, other members are more likely to get a similar prescription filled within 12 months.

When one family member takes prescription opioids that were meant for another member of the family, this is called drug diversion and opioid initiation. The risk is that the person taking the opioids may become addicted, and quickly seek out new sources of opioids.

“When opioids are prescribed to one family member, there is a 12% risk that other family members will consume those drugs, and be ‘initiated’ into opioid abuse and addiction through this exposure.”

75% of heroin users in treatment admit that their addiction started with prescription painkiller opioids, and many of those that developed a substance abuse issue with prescription painkillers admit that they started taking the pills from their parents’ or other family members’ prescriptions. This makes the prescriptions painkillers that are not locked up and are easily accessible to other family members the #1 root cause of heroin addiction.

When you look at the heroin epidemic today, having killed of 65,000 Americans in 2016, drug diversion from unsecured medications in your family’s home is dangerous and 100% preventable. Parents especially should not leave any prescription medications accessible to children or any other family members.

The Risks of Opioid Addiction with Chronic Pain, Injuries and Illnesses

Opioid medications and painkillers really do serve legitimate medical purposes, and are often the best medical option for treating illnesses associated with pain and chronic pain. If a loved one has been diagnosed with a chronic pain issue or illness that causes pain, they need medications to control the pain and preserve quality of life. However, families should remember that that problems with medications can arise, and families should be looking out for the best interest of their loved ones when it comes to opioid medications and any other prescription drugs.We are not saying that you need to take away your loved one’s painkillers at the first sign of a problem. We are simply saying that – for the benefit of your loved one’s health and safety – you should be aware of what medications your loved one is taking, the risks of those medications, the doctor’s recommended dosage, and the symptoms and signs that an addiction is forming.


Painkiller Addiction Among Athletes

Prescription Painkiller Addictions in the Young and Elderly

Those that are in their formative years (12-25), and those that are elderly (55+) are especially prone to opioid use disorders and misuse of painkillers. If your children are prescribed opioid painkillers for injuries or illnesses, you as a parent should immediately educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of addiction, withdrawal and overdose.

While it may feel like an invasion of your child’s privacy, or an overstepping of your boundaries to count and monitor how many pain pills your child is taking after being prescribed opioids, it is needed for their safety and wellbeing. So many that have lost their lives in the past decade due to the opioid epidemic were originally prescribed painkillers by a doctor, and their lives may have been saved – if only family members intervened into the problem sooner.



Withdrawal FAQs

FAQs about Painkiller/Prescription Opioid Withdrawal

There are a great many questions that individual addicted to opioids and their family members may have about painkiller addiction – specifically about detox, withdrawal and recovery. We have gathered some common questions below, and given answers that will be beneficial to the loved ones of those suffering from opioid use disorders and addiction.


How Long After Taking Prescription Opioids will Painkiller Withdrawals Begin?


This depends on how much of an opioid a person has been taking, how long they have been taking the drugs, and what form of opioid painkiller they have been using. Different brands and types of painkillers have different half-lives.

The half-life of a drug is how long it takes for 50% of the dosage taken to be metabolized and released from your body. For example, morphine’s half-life is 2-3 hours. Opioids can also build up in the system, and if a person is taking a large amount of opioids, or a combination of different types of opioids, the half-life of the total amount of drugs in a person’s system can be compounded.

Generally, opioid withdrawal timelines state that – in most cases – opioid withdrawal begins within 6-12 hours, peaks at about 72 hours, and a person should be through the painkiller withdrawal within 7 days.

My Loved One Is Addicted to Painkillers and was Arrested. Should I Let Them Stay in Jail to Get Off Drugs?


No. A person in jail is not going to receive proper medically assisted detox, or the medical care they need. Families need to realize just how serious a condition opioid addiction is, and that a person can die from painkiller withdrawal.

There have been numerous cases of families not posting bail for a loved one, or allowing them to stay in jail for an extend period of time, to give them time to “sober up.” Many of these cases have ended in death or serious injury to the addict due to painkiller and opioid withdrawals.

The proper way to deal with this situation is to make sure that they get medically assisted painkiller detox to get them stabilized and out of the danger zone of acute painkiller withdrawal. After they have been stabilized, it is fine to leave them to pay for their mistakes through incarceration, or any other penalty the courts and law enforcement decide upon. However, getting an addict stabilized through medical detox is essential to their life, safety, and wellbeing.

I’ve Heard Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Detox is Just Using One Drug to Replace Another. Is This True?


No, medication assisted treatment for detox is not replacing one addiction for another. MAT detox is clinical treatment to safely stabilize a patient that is addicted to a drug or alcohol, and remove the last of the drugs and alcohol from their system, before they can receive substance abuse counseling and work on staying sober.
MAT detox for does use medications similar to painkillers, heroin and other opioids to stabilize the patient, but it utilizes these medications on a taper and titration schedule (slowly decreasing the amount of the medication down to zero). This is the safest way for a person to stop using drugs, and will prevent the deadly withdrawal symptoms seen if detox is attempted cold turkey.

Opioid replacement therapy, is likely what you have heard arguments against – calling it replacing one addiction for another. This is used in cases of extreme addiction, where relapse is likely to end in a deadly overdose.

Suboxone and methadone clinics are examples of facilities that offer opioid replacement therapy – where a patient goes daily, weekly or monthly to receive medications that keep withdrawal symptoms from appearing. This type of treatment is not for everybody, and we recommend MAT detox that has the goal of getting the patient completely off drugs, by the end of the schedule.





Painkiller Addiction Detox, Treatment, and Recovery

Reflections Recovery Center offers a full continuum of treatment in our painkiller addiction treatment programs for men. We assist families who need help and immediate assistance for a loved one addicted to painkillers, opioids, and/or heroin – offering intervention services, medically assisted opioid detox, evidence-based and proven clinical and therapeutic addiction counseling and treatment, as well as aftercare and family support throughout recovery.

We urge parents and family members who don’t know where to turn with their loved one’s addictions to contact us for an addiction assessment and recommendation for long term painkiller addiction recovery.

Family Support for Painkiller Addiction

Oxycontin Detox at Reflections Recovery Center in Arizona

Unresolved Grief and Addiction: How Self Medication Turns into Addiction


Grief hurts. There is no magic pill for healing your grief. And honestly, it’s insulting when people tell you to just get over it and move on. It just plain sucks.

Who among us can say it takes this amount of time or that amount of behavior to stop grieving? Time heals nothing you don’t work on.

And it’s tough. The emotional pain of grief is tantamount to a slow recovery from major surgery. So, naturally, we avoid it if we can. But avoiding it heals nothing either.

It’s easy to see why people use substances to avoid the pain, often falling into addiction and adding another problem to their grief.

What Causes Grief? 

There are many life events that cause grief. Here are some of the things that cause normal grief:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Death of a friend
  • Divorce
  • Divorce of a parent
  • Loss of a pet
  • Ending of a friendship or relationship
  • Loss of a job
  • Trauma of physical or emotional abuse
  • Seeing a loved one suffer
  • Loss of familiar surroundings
  • Remembering past losses and abuses
  • Major change in any meaningful part of life

Any great loss, change or traumatic experience can cause significant grief. Perhaps particularly apropos for people abusing substances, the loss of identity, loss of self and a life wasted in substance abuse can be the biggest grief-causing trauma of all. Regret turns into grieving.

The Impact of Grief

Although grief and loss are deeply personal issues and there is no typical response, psychology experts recognize five main stages of grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

These stages aren’t necessarily in order, and are as individual as human DNA. However, being aware of our feelings and understanding them does help us cope. It’s also nice to know we’re not alone and we’re not the only ones who’ve ever felt this way.

Being capable of coping and being able to accept loss does not mean we’re OK with what happened, but it does mean we are willing to get better and begin to live again.

Uncomplicated Grief

Uncomplicated grief, or normal grief, is the natural sorrow we all go through when dramatic situations arise. Going through the grieving process is how we deal with loss. It’s not a bad thing; it’s a healthy response to a difficult situation.

Symptoms of uncomplicated grief include:

  • Pining for a lost relationship
  • Longing for a person who has passed away
  • Yearning for a lost companion
  • Preoccupation with loss, sadness and depression
  • Difficulty accepting a change in one’s life
  • Agitation, irritability and anxiety

While these symptoms are excruciating, people learn to accept them and come to terms with their loss. Although the memory of a loved one or relationship will never be forgotten, bereaved individuals learn that they have other people and goals in life to pay attention to. After a period of emotional work and spiritual growth, people with uncomplicated grief recover.

Complicated Grief

Unresolved Grief and Addiction: How Self Medication Turns into AddictionTen to 20 percent of those grieving develop complicated grief. In these cases, sorrowful feelings worsen over time instead of improving.

People with complicated grief are often predisposed to addictions. They can be codependent, love addicted, sex addicted or have none of those conditions. Grief itself can be an addictive habit.

People suffering from complicated grief do not let the memory of the person or loss go. They keep the memories alive in their heads by focusing on them and inadvertently feeding their own pain. Stimulating these thoughts in one’s head activates the reward center in the brain.

Similarly, clinging to a past love fires the brain’s pleasure signals, resulting in a chemical reward resembling being with your lover in person. In this way, complicated grief sucks people into an ever-winding whirlpool of sadness and painful/pleasurable emotion. Having complicated grief or bereavement disorder makes one prone to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Coping with Drugs

For people getting clean and feeling emotions, they are not used to coping with without substances, it can be overwhelming. Many of us can’t handle the rush of emotions that flood our souls once the drugs and alcohol wear off. So much of our society buys into the “I need a drink!” way of thinking, and we learn to numb our feelings with alcoholism, substance abuse and other unmanageable addictions that give our brains feel-good chemicals.

It seems fine at first. After all, “It’s what everyone does,” we reason. Unfortunately, substance use turns into addiction and numbing the pain becomes the only way we deal with (or neglect dealing with) feelings. When grief is stuffed down and out of mind, instead of getting better, people get worse.

Addiction and Grief 

While drug and alcohol abuse seems to offer solace to grieving souls, that temporary escape fuels the same neural pathways as the grief-love cycle. Both addiction and relationship attachment – including the memory of love – arouse the same part of the brain.

People in bereavement are vulnerable to drug addiction, and people abusing drugs are prone to cling to grief until it becomes a disorder. Ultimately, which comes first is irrelevant.

Self-Medicating Grief

Cross-addictions come in many forms like alcohol and heroin, meth and Oxy, alcohol, and gambling. For people suffering from loss, it is not uncommon to self-medicate grief with alcohol and drugs.

When simple grief evolves into complicated grief, it becomes a chronic, debilitating mental health condition. And in this weakened state, seeking emotional pain relief through self-medicating substances ramps up.

Codependency and addiction to a person, love or sex carry much grief and loss when the relationship ends – whether due to death or a break-up. At times like these, people are drawn into drugs and alcohol to quiet their minds and to stop feeling.

Toxic Grief 

Grief is painful. Pain makes us gravitate toward relief of suffering. It’s natural.

Even superheroes grieve. With powers like the ability to regrow limbs and stave off cancer, they can find no superpower to avoid emotional pain. And without treatment, even heroes grieve violently, ingest large doses of drugs or attempt suicide. Prolonged complicated grief is toxic.

In dealing with grief and substance abuse in men, effective treatment involves addressing not only the symptoms of substance abuse and addiction, but also the work necessary to overcome deep grief. Although feeling pain is tough, going through it with guidance and support is the way to get emotionally healthy and abandon self-medicating habits.

Summoning the strength to quit drugs and let go of unhealthy attachments takes work. It takes a commitment and surrender to the process. But with the proper treatment and a desire to change, men are accomplishing such feats every day at Reflections Recovery Center.

How to Help a Family Member Suffering from Grief and Addiction

If you have a loved one dealing with substance abuse and you suspect it’s tied to grief – either through the loss of a family member or friend, a divorce or other type of deep-seated grief from the past – you need to get your loved one help at a dual diagnosis rehab center. A dual diagnosis treatment center for men, specifically those dealing with grief and addiction, will offer the best chance at a full recovery from both co-occurring disorders. Reflections Recovery offers just such a program for men.

Regardless of whether your loved one is predisposed to addiction or not, whether the addiction or grief came first, treating substance abuse is the initial therapy. Until a person can think clearly and feel things soberly, no grief work can be done.

Only getting help for addiction and not treating the grief leaves people vulnerable to relapse or developing another addiction. Unresolved emotional issues like complicated grief can wreak havoc for a lifetime.

Read More About Trauma and Addiction

Signs You’re Living with a Functional Drug Addict


Addicts are generally depicted as people who have turned to illegal substances and have hit rock-bottom. They have been stereotyped as individuals who come from dysfunctional households, earn meager income, and are school dropouts. Addicts are usually assumed to be violent and angry people who are either high or just coming down from one. This is far from true. There are actually addicts who do manage to do things normally and successfully, or so they say.

What is a High-Functioning Addict?

Signs You're Living with a Functional Drug AddictA high-functioning addict can be the family doctor, a preschool school teacher, the successful lawyer with the nice office, or the busy and very personable soccer mom. A high-functioning addict may seem to be living a happy, balanced, and successful life. He has a caring and loving family and friends, have great a job, is active in church and the community, and has interests and hobbies for him to de-stress. The reality is that he secretly takes his substance of abuse for him to function through the day.

A high-functioning addict is highly capable of keeping his addiction a secret from everyone. He is skilled in going through his daily activities without his addiction getting in the way. Most high-functioning addicts believe that they do not have a substance abuse problem. They think that they can handle their substance addiction, unwittingly jeopardizing themselves for psychological and physical health problems.

Get The Discussion Started With An Intervention. Learn More.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a state in which an individual is compelled to repeatedly use an illicit substance or engage in an activity that he finds rewarding. A person can be addicted to substances such as prescription drugs, alcohol, cocaine, and more, or in activities such as gambling.  Scientific studies indicate that the addictive substance or behavior strongly activates that brain center of reinforcement and reward, involving the dopamine neurotransmitter.

Individuals who develop an addiction are not readily aware that their tolerance to the pertaining substance or behavior has increased.  The brain’s executive functions are affected that is why an “addict” does not realize that his behavior is harming himself and those around him. Thus, a high-functioning addict’s mindset is the same.

Recognizing a High-functioning Addict

Individuals turn to drugs for various reasons. For example, a college student may use stimulants to enhance his focus while studying, or an athlete may use prescription painkillers due to an injury, or a stay-at-home mom may turn an occasional wine before dinner into a devastating alcohol addiction.

Are you living with an addict? If he or she is a high-functioning one, then knowing if he or she is an addict is not as easy. High-functioning addicts can readily hide or disguise their drug problems without family and friends knowing any better. However, there are ways to discern and unmask one.

Denial is a key sign of addiction. High-functioning addicts may not use drugs on a daily basis. They may prefer to drink only the finest wines and do designer drugs. They can effortlessly manage their family and career, fulfilling their obligations and responsibilities easily. They may even feel entitled to indulge in their substance of addiction as a means of rewarding themselves for their hard work. Recognizing that they have an addiction problem is farthest in their mind. Their friends and loved ones sometimes fail to recognize the addiction problem even if they are presented with facts.

Changes in Behavioral Patterns. No matter how many functional addicts rationalize that they do not have an addiction, they will still experience the consequences.  Subtle changes in their behavior uncharacteristic of them may appear. They may have the tendency to isolate themselves, refusing to interact socially and failing to do family obligations. Professionally, they may show lack of focus in doing tasks, miss deadlines, and might frequently call in sick. They may show some physical signs of addiction such as paranoia, insomnia, and unsteadiness in their movements.

Master of Excuses. A high-functioning addict is a master in making excuses for his unusual behavior and strange occurrences. Coming home drunk or high, he will usually cook up a seemingly realistic story to cover his addiction.

Double Life Situation. Leading a double life becomes the norm for high-functioning addicts. He is the exact opposite of the person he shows and maintains to the outside world. He exudes confidence, success, and everything that is truly remarkable but when the curtain is drawn and he is by himself, his inner demons manifest. On occasions, he feels the burden of his lies and deception, but this does not mean he is ready to admit his addiction and seek rehabilitation. Hitting rock-bottom seems to be the thing that could motivate him to seek treatment.

Being in a relationship with a high-functioning addict is not easy as he does not fit the typical drug addict or alcoholic.  His job is his anchor of keeping sane as it offers him financial stability to support his addiction. The regular working hours offer him consistency and structure. The job gives him a sense of being someone else, and not an addict. He is mostly at work that it makes it easy to do his drugs or alcohol away from the eyes of his family.

A great concern is that unless he admits his addiction, he continues to be a liability to himself and to those around him.

Tell-tale Signs of Addiction

Classified as a chronic brain disease, addiction will ultimately lead to lower quality of life, health issues, financial problems, work problems and family/relational problems for the addict. Are you in a relationship and is not quite sure if your partner has addiction problems because of his weird actions? Here are some signs that you are dating an addict.

  • Your partner can’t seem to limit his drinks or “recreational drugs”.
  • He claims that he is feeling just a bit under the weather and needs to drink or take drugs to feel nice and comfy.
  • You notice that something is not quite right with his behavior, and then he attempts to weave stories and lies about his consumption.
  • He has not introduced you to his buddies, and then you found out that his buddies do drugs or binge on alcohol.
  • After a tasking work is done, your partner rewards himself by binging on alcohol or drugs.

Addiction has its repercussions, and an addict will most likely attribute his addiction-related problems for other reasons. His thoughts are preoccupied with the substance of his addiction, always finding ways to get a hit. Since high-functioning addicts can deceive their family, the very same family became his enablers -defending and making excuses for him. Until he hits rock-bottom, a high-functioning addict will not seek help.

The question now is: “How to help a functioning addict?”

For family and friends, it is important to support and understand the person with an addiction problem. There are various reasons why he started abusing substances and condemning him at this point will not be constructive. Intervention and treatment are the solutions. Now!

Reflections Recovery Center offers detoxification and rehabilitation for men with substance abuse problem. Unlike a sterile-constricting hospital setting, there are facilities that offer a young and edgy vibe that inspires patients to get well.

Why Men's Only Rehab Works - Reflections Recovery Center

What real clients have to say about Reflections Recovery Center in Arizona
Reflections provided me with the tools that got me where i am today with 14 months sober.
— Ricky A, Long Beach CA
Reflections gave me a life and an opportunity to become part of society. They challenged me and shaped me into the man I want to be.
— Dyer K, Gilbert AZ
I learned how to stay sober, found my best friends and created a new life at Reflections
— David S, Phoenix AZ

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